College Friends Team Up to Honor Mentor

To help students who need a little support, and to honor the college dean who inspired them, SOU alumni and longtime friends, Art Diederich ’67, Mick Skillern ’67, and Lynn Wakem ’67 joined forces to create the Dr. Alvin Fellers Memorial Scholarship.

The award recognizes students who have demonstrated professionalism, integrity and a devotion to human values—all characteristics and qualities embodied by Fellers. With a career in education spanning more than 40 years, Fellers served as Dean of Men and Dean of Students. With an unflagging belief in every student’s potential, Fellers showed genuine warmth, and his encouragement had a lasting impact on the three men who endowed a scholarship in his name. “He was our Dean, and he was so much more,” said Lynn Wakem. “We all held him in high regard. He was very approachable, and he helped so many students.”

“Dr. Fellers genuinely cared about students. He followed our academic careers, often suggesting we get involved with campus organizations like student government,” said Diederich. “He would lead by example, showing up to help at school events or to cheer us on.”

“We want to recognize students who are involved in school and the community,” added Skillern. “That was important to Dr. Fellers, and it’s important to us.” While the endowment is a testament to the legacy of Fellers, it is also a testament to the three men’s enduring bond. Diederich, Wakem, and Skillern’s long friendship started at SOC and has continued ever since. Over the years, they talked about giving back to the school that they say gave so much to them. “Without the education we received at SOC, we wouldn’t be where we are,” said Diederich, a former retirement plan administrator.

“SOC is where we matured,” added Skillern. “I went from a kid who thought he was stupid to someone who was able to realize his potential. That’s life changing,” said Skillern, an investment professional.
Wakem says donating is an ideal way to pay things forward. “We want to help those kids who maybe need that extra little push,” he said, “people like us, who Dr. Fellers would be following around.” Wakem spent a career in the financial and retirement planning industries.

The first scholarship was awarded to students in 2016, and the three men said it was a real joy to meet the recipients in person. “We were so moved to hear one recipient talk about receiving the financial help,” said Wakem. “It rearmed for us the importance of giving.”

The scholarship is also proof of what is possible when people come together to help one another. “We want both students and other potential donors to see what can be done when we all work together. People can do big things when they have a little help,” said Skillern.